Gianluigi Buffon (L) tries unsuccessfully to stop a penalty during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second-leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on March 6, 2019.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Manchester United reached the Champions League quarter-finals with a stunning 3-1 last 16, second leg success against Paris Saint Germain on Wednesday, going through on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw.
Here are three things we learned from a dramatic and controversial clash in the French capital:
United make history
None of the previous 34 teams to a lose a Champions League knockout round first leg at home by two goals or more had advanced to the next stage.
In fact, no team in the history of the European Cup had ever recovered from that position to progress.
United had only prevailed in a single knockout tie in the Champions League since 2011, while their last away win in the knockout stages came eight years ago against Schalke.
But that all meant nothing to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who showed why he has become Manchester United’s man with the Midas touch and, in the process, surely guaranteed he will be appointed as United’s permanent manager sooner rather than later.
Not only did Solskjaer inspire his players by insisting “it’s never mission impossible, making history is the motivation” on the eve of the game, he managed to conjure the astonishing victory despite the absence of the suspended Paul Pogba and nine injured players.
It is 20 years since Solskjaer scored United’s stoppage-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
And once again, Solskjaer enjoyed a moment of late magic as Marcus Rashford buried the controversial VAR-awarded 94th-minute penalty winner to book United’s last eight berth.
The debate about whether Presnel Kimpembe meant to handle Diogo Dalot’s shot will rage on.
But while there was no trophy at stake in the last 16, this will go down as one of the greatest nights in United’s illustrious European history.
Lukaku shines again
Written off as an overweight flop destined to leave United sooner rather than later, Romelu Lukaku has suddenly emerged as his side’s talisman after tormenting PSG with two clinical finishes.
Lukaku had endured such a wretched time this season that he was cast aside in favour of Rashford when Solskjaer took over from the sacked Jose Mourinho.
But injuries have allowed Lukaku an unexpected reprieve and the Belgian forward has seized his chance in spectacular fashion.
There were less than two minutes on the clock when Lukaku alertly seized on Thilo Kehrer’s suicidal pass towards his own penalty area, held off Thiago Silva and rounded Gianluigi Buffon to score from a tight angle.
Desperately needing a quick response after PSG’s equaliser, Lukaku — who hadn’t scored a European goal all season until Wednesday — was United’s hero again in the 30th minute.
When Rashford tried his luck with a long-range effort, Buffon made a hash of his attempted save as the ball bounced in front of him and Lukaku, wisely moving in on the keeper in case of a mistake, was perfectly placed to slot home from close-range.
Lukaku now has six goals in his last three games and his predatory performance in Paris will leave his name forever etched in the United history books.
Night to forget for Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe endured an agonising evening that started with a flash of his breath-taking talent, but ended in abject misery after his crucial miss played a key role in their exit.
At 20 years and 76 days, Mbappe was the fourth youngest player to play 25 Champions League games.
But that youth would betray him as he delivered an erratic display when PSG needed him most.
Mbappe was instrumental in their 12th-minute equaliser, accelerating away from Fred and Chris Smalling to whip over a low cross that Juan Bernat finished at the far post.
But the France forward cost his team a quarter-final place when he lost his footing after Dani Alves’s pass sent him clean through on goal in the closing minutes.
Rashford scored the winner soon after and the distraught Mbappe finished the night flat on his back with hands covering his face.